Politics, Moderate



Send Your Dids to the Best School Possible

CHICAGO -- A couple of first-generation college grads recently wrote to "The Ethicist" advice column in The New York Times Magazine with a familiar moral quandary:

"We are struggling with choosing a public school for our son, who will enter kindergarten this year. ... Do we let our neighborhood kids and our own values down by fleeing to a ...Read more

Our Terrible History of Forced Sterilizations

CHICAGO -- The English language is so flexible -- so bedeviling, even -- that the word "tie" can actually mean "cut." "Sterilization" can mean "cleaning" but also the impeding of the ability to produce offspring.

The new Independent Lens documentary "No Mas Bebes" -- No More Babies -- uncovers the story of how low-income women in 30 states were...Read more

The American Library's Evolving Role: Social-Work Center

WAUKEGAN, Ill. -- Forty miles from downtown Chicago, in the birthplace of Ray Bradbury, sits one of the nation's most striking examples of the American library's evolving role from book repository to community shelter.

It's a well-accepted fact that law enforcement is the de facto front line of mental health services for the poor. So too, in ...Read more

The Family Struggles of the First to Go to College

CHICAGO -- There are some ugly truths about being the first in your family to attend college: Those you leave behind aren't always happy for you, they sometimes think you're a traitor for leaving home and, when you return on breaks, they might accuse you of acting like you're better than everyone else.

Jennine Capo Crucet explores these issues ...Read more

The Trust Gap for Minority Patients

CHICAGO -- New research confirms that many Hispanics, blacks and other minorities perceive that doctors just don't care about them and that their medical care isn't as good as it could be.

According to University of Pennsylvania research fellow Abigail Sewell, compared with whites, Latinos and blacks are less likely to trust the technical ...Read more

Beware of Hollywood's Exploitation of the Drug War

CHICAGO -- Ironically, I initially missed the brouhaha over the now-infamous Sean Penn interview of El Chapo in Rolling Stone magazine last Saturday night because I'd finally succumbed to watching "Sicario," the movie about drug cartels in Juarez, Mexico.

I'd put off seeing the critically acclaimed film because it was released at a time when ...Read more

Mixed Emotions On Chipotle's Fall From Grace

CHICAGO -- I try to lead a positive, good-karma life. But despite my best efforts, I'm ashamed to admit that I'm enjoying Chipotle Mexican Grill's fall from grace just a tiny little bit.

I actively work to not rub my hands maniacally, chuckling evil-villain style, when reading about its pending lawsuits and recent 45 percent stock devaluation. ...Read more

Teacher Training Is In a Dismal State

CHICAGO -- At the end of "The Special-Education Charade," a recent article in The Atlantic about why having a "special" child in public schools is "hell, or its equivalent," readers confront a pertinent phrase: "the dismal state of teacher training."

This was only one of several factors noted in Tracy Thompson's emotional -- and spot-on, as I ...Read more

A Trio of Worthwhile Self-Help Books

CHICAGO -- I'm a sucker for self-help books. It's a leap of faith not only to purchase them but also then to actually read them with the faint hope of making a tiny difference in a lifetime of rigid, often bad, habits.

Here are three new-ish titles I've lived with for most of a year and are memorable enough to recommend. They have in common two...Read more

Fox's 'Bordertown' is Both Authentic and Hilarious

CHICAGO -- The night before a recent screening of the new Fox animated TV series "Bordertown," nationally syndicated political cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz and I bellied up to the rail at a Detroit bar and our eyes instantly fell on the same thing: The band that night was the Skeeto Valdez Experience.

This is what it's like being different -- you go...Read more

The Danger in our Young Men Adrift

CHICAGO -- Once it emerged that Enrique Marquez Jr. had purchased the assault rifles used by the two San Bernardino terrorists -- and had been discussing terrorist-related mayhem with perpetrator Syed Rizwan Farook, a childhood friend, as far back as 2007 -- Latinos all over America collectively responded with an "Oh no, not one of ours!"

It's ...Read more

The Latino Vote Needs Investment

CHICAGO -- The "Latino vote" has been a political object of desire for the past few election cycles. It has not, however, been taken seriously as a long-term investment.

This should be evident in Latinos' consistently poor showing at the polls. The Census Bureau calculated that fewer than half of all eligible Hispanics turned out to vote in ...Read more

Student Success Takes More Than a Cheerily Named Act

CHICAGO -- Don't you just love the name of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)? Let's see how long before its feel-good, affirmative promise falls from grace and becomes as virulently despised as the outgoing No Child Left Behind Act.

NCLB, as it's called in education circles, was once heralded as a positive development that stressed ...Read more

Spike Lee's New Film a Missed Opportunity

CHICAGO -- Spike Lee's new movie "Chi-Raq" is not the place to look for answers to the conundrum of how to quell gun violence in Chicago.

This was to be expected -- no Hollywood filmmaker should be burdened with the expectation of fixing our societal ills.

But putting them in a larger context -- maybe even creating an artistic work of ...Read more

Charlotte's Windfall as An Immigrant Gateway

CHICAGO -- A decade ago, the Brookings Institution noted a new trend in immigration: New arrivals were increasingly bypassing traditional gateway cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles in favor of suburbs and smaller towns in the South and West.

Now Brookings has quantified this shift, reporting last week that the number of gateway ...Read more

A Diverse Collection of Favorite Books

CHICAGO -- It is gift-giving season once again and time for my fifth annual roundup of favorite books that are diverse, but not about diversity. In other words: Books that plumb universal themes written by, or about, people traditionally not seen much in mainstream publishing.

There have been so many, as there are every year, that in this ...Read more

Make Preschool Available to Our Neediest Children

CHICAGO -- Universal preschool is widely touted as a surefire way to boost kids' academic achievement. But while it isn't likely to be affordable for -- or even desired by -- all families, it shouldn't be underestimated as a potent educational support for low-income children.

Earlier this year, a study in the Journal of the American Medical ...Read more

Our Nation's Food Banks Could Use Your Help

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- There are few things sadder than a food bank practically hollowed out a week before Thanksgiving. But at the Camino Pantry, the shelves were just temporarily bare until the arrival of a shipment of turkeys and maybe a few other holiday miracles.

Though low on essentials, Camino had plenty of dignity on offer when I visited as...Read more

The Real Story of the Pilgrims

CHICAGO -- "America's Founding Myth" might have been a catchier title for Ric Burns' new film "The Pilgrims," which explores the crossing of the Mayflower and settlement in the so-called New World in 1620. But even that would do too little service to the harrowing story of how a band of English separatists came to unite with a Native American ...Read more

Aspirational Cooks Behind Bars

CHICAGO -- In 2008, I was allowed inside a county jail in the Chicago suburbs to report on the living conditions of inmates and immigrant detainees.

Many men told sad and perplexing stories about how their lives came to be on hold. But the detail that has always stayed with me was that several of them described the "cooking" they did to pass ...Read more

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Signe Wilkinson Darrin Bell Mike Lester Clay Bennett Mike Luckovich Steve Breen